Apoquel vs Benadryl

As the summer season kicks in, the risk of allergies reaches its peak for both humans and pets. The same case is with the dogs too, they are very energetic and active but when they suffer from any sort of illness like poison ivy or mosquito bite, they become lethargic and dull. As a result of such allergies, the dog feels itching & swollen that makes him uncomfortable. If we treat them properly, it can be curable, if not then it can be life-threatening. Which drug to go for if it’s Apoquel Vs Benadryl?

apoquel vs benadryl

Mechanism of actionJAK inhibitor (DMARD)Mechanism of action JAK inhibitor (DMARD) Antihistamine
Uses● Atopic Dermatitis
● Pruritus
● Relieves itchiness caused by flea bites
● Chronic Atopic Dermatitis
● Reduces allergic symptoms like itchiness, swelling, redness.
● Reduces motion sickness
● Reduces Mast cell tumors during heartworm treatment
Side Effects● Vomiting
● Diarrhea
● Lethargy
● Dizziness
● anorexia (decreased appetite)
● decrease globulins, neutropenia (low levels of neutrophils)
● anemia (decrease red blood count)
● increased cholesterol
● Increased liver values.
● Rash
● swelling over face and tongue
● Vomiting
● Diarrhea
● GI upset
● Insomnia (sleeplessness)
● Xerostomia (dryness of the mouth)
● Rapid breathing
● Hypersalivation or increased saliva production
● Tachycardia (increased heart rate).
Dosage0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg every 12 hours twice a day up to 14 days.Dosage 0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg every 12 hours twice a day up to 14 days. 2 to 4 mg of medication per kg of weight of your pet.
ContraindicationsContraindications ● After 14 days of use, shouldn’t be given twice a day
● shouldn’t be used for dogs below 1 year ● Can cause allergic symptoms, check out for allergies.
● Shouldn’t be taken with alcohol or decongestants
● Benadryl for adults and puppies is different
Contraindications ● After 14 days of use, shouldn’t be given twice a day
● shouldn’t be used for dogs below 1 year ● Can cause allergic symptoms, check out for allergies.
● Shouldn’t be taken with alcohol or decongestants
● Benadryl for adults and puppies is different

What are the signs of allergic reaction in a Dog?

After your dog eats a certain food or gets in contact with an allergen. he will be showing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Reddish inflamed skin
  • Hives
  • Itchiness
  • Swollen face, eyelids, ears, lips, or earflaps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Constant licking

Finding an appropriate drug or medication for your dog is very necessary to treat allergic symptoms. Drugs, Apoquel, and Benadryl are amongst the best choice of drugs for your pet if he’s suffering from any kind of allergy. However, both of them can be taken based on your pet’s breed, symptoms, and condition. So which one to choose?

Let us list down the differences between the drug Apoquel and the drug Benadryl to know the right choice.

Introduction Apoquel Vs Benadryl

Firstly, let’s go through a brief introduction of both drugs Apoquel and Benadryl.

Apoquel is JAK inhibitors, belonging to a family of DMARDs (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs). Apoquel (brand name) is a drug used for the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis. In other words skin disease. Meanwhile, Benadryl belongs to a family of antihistamine drugs that help in relieving the symptoms of allergies.

Apoquel is an anti-itching drug of choice which is now used to reduce the effects of skin allergies in dogs. Traditionally, before Apoquel, veterinarians had used antihistamines such as Benadryl and steroids. For example, Prednisone was in use to make allergic and sick dogs comfortable.

In Today’s world, the two of them are good drugs to consider but some breeds of dogs show severe side effects on both medications.

Class or Family

Apoquel is the brand name of Oclacitinib, which is an immune-suppressant drug and belongs to a family of JAK inhibitors i.e. Janus Kinase inhibitor. On the other side, Benadryl (one of the brand names for diphenhydramine) is also an immune suppressor.

Unlike Apoquel, Benadryl belongs to a family of antihistamines and is used to reduce skin rash within dogs. Also, we can use it for humans and other animals. Benadryl is the first derivative of ethanolamine derivative antihistamine.

What does an antihistamine do? Allergic reactions are usually caused by a chemical; mediator released in our body called Histamine. These drugs effectively block its supply and so the symptoms of allergy such as rashes, redness, sneezing and others resolve.

Mode of Action

While giving any medicine to your dog, an individual must know the mode of action of that drug or in other words how the drug works inside your body.

If we talk about Apoquel, it works by inhibiting JAK receptor signaling. What does that do? It blocks the effects of inflammatory cytokines released from activated lymphocytes which directly involve the sensation of itching. Additionally, the JAK receptor is responsible for bone marrow functioning too.

In comparison, Benadryl works by blocking the receptors that receive histamine. Benadryl is the brand name for one of the active ingredients i.e. Diphenhydramine. While blocking the histamine receptor, the body still produces histamine but the antagonist blocks the receptor, which does not allow it to bind and show effects.

Side Effects

When considering Apoquel Vs Benadryl, the most important thing is to consider the aftereffects of each medicine.

Apoquel is one of the best drugs of choice for allergies in dogs, but this medication is not free from side effects. However, we can say that it’s compulsory to monitor your dog’s blood report if he has been taking Apoquel for a long time.

The main side effects of Apoquel for dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and dizziness, anorexia (decreased appetite), decrease globulins, neutropenia (low levels of neutrophils), anemia (decrease red blood count), thrombocytopenia (decrease white blood count), increased cholesterol, and increased liver values.

Remember these side effects are not found in each and every dog. They are related to overdose or long-term use.

Some of the dogs in the studies also developed demodicosis, neoplasia, pneumonia, bloody diarrhea, skin and ear infections, histiocytomas, and UTIs (urinary tract infection).

A bunch of researchers state that few dogs were seen with polydipsia, bulimia nervosa (increased appetite), and aggression.

While talking about Benadryl, it is safe for most dogs but few can develop allergies against Benadryl. Why? It is due to resistant or mutating genes. Drugs for allergies may cause allergies. Isn’t this ironic?

Allergy due to Benadryl or diphenhydramine has similar symptoms with other allergies which include rash, swelling over face and tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, GI upset, and skin chewing or licking too. Studies showed that some dogs may also develop

  • Insomnia (sleeplessness)
  • Xerostomia (dryness of the mouth)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hypersalivation or increased saliva production
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate).

These are less dangerous side effects but can lead to dangerous illnesses.

Also, there are many conditions in which Benadryl is contraindicated. If your dog suffers from these conditions, consult your Vet while taking Benadryl. Conditions are depicted below:

  • Any sort of CVS illness.
  • Glaucoma
  • Seizures
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypertension
  • Allergic lung disease.

Additionally, Benadryl overdoses can lead to seizures, respiratory failure, and coma depending upon the size of the dose. If you feel your dog has overdosed, you must visit your vet immediately to treat it before things get out of hand.

Thus, based on your dog’s condition and the severity of the allergy, choose a drug.

Uses Of Apoquel And Benadryl

Now is the time to see what’s the main usage of Apoquel and Benadryl.

Also, what would be the best for your pet according to their disease or allergic state? The answer is here.

Apoquel prescribed by the Vet to control itching associated with allergic dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis. Specifically, it is used to treat atopic dermatitis and pruritus (itching) caused by allergic reactions. Moreover, it’s also labeled to reduce the itchiness and dermatitis caused by flea bites.

It may also be used for chronic atopic dermatitis(long-term skin disease).

On the other side, Benadryl is another great choice of medication for dogs, used for mild to moderate allergies.

It is one of the most common drugs used to treat allergies, especially itchiness caused by allergic reactions. Other symptoms which can also be relieved by Benadryl are swelling, inflammation, redness, hives, runny nose and eyes, cough, flu, sneezing, and any sort of anaphylactic reaction.

Additionally, It can also reduce motion sickness and anxiousness (as one of the side effects of this drug is drowsiness and lethargy). It is also prescribed by the vet to treat mast cell tumors and during heartworm treatment in dogs. Benadryl reduces the risk of allergic reactions caused by heartworm treatment therapy.

Hence, for diseases like Atopic Dermatitis, Apoquel is used and for mild allergy symptoms, Benadryl is considered.

Management Or Dosage

Before you start giving your dog drug therapy you must know the safe dosage. Less dose wouldn’t solve the problem and an overdose can lead to side effects. So Apoquel or Benadryl?

If we talk about the management or dosage of both Apoquel and Benadryl, asking your veterinarians will be the best option.

However, the suggested appropriate dosage of Apoquel is 0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg every 12 hours twice a day up to 14 days and after that the same dose of 0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg once a day for more than 14 days.

It’s not approved to use it twice a day for more than 14 days or so, the dose criteria are very strict. Under any condition, don’t go over it as it can cause immune suppression which makes a dog susceptible to many infections.

Apoquel is only approved for dogs of age above 12 months as in younger dogs. Why? It can cause demodicosis and severe pneumonia. Furthermore, it’s also not very effective for allergies in puppies.

However, if we talk about Benadryl, its appropriate dosage depends upon the size and weight of the dog. In small dogs, it’s required in less quantity while the amount will increase in bigger dogs. If we make a rough idea, the suitable and safe dose is 2 to 4 mg of medication per kg of weight of your pet.

The drug can be given 2 to 3 times a day according to the condition and symptoms of your dog. Despite everything, you must keep a few points in your mind while administering your dog with Benadryl. What are they?

  • Don’t use Benadryl with alcohol or decongestants as they can be toxic for your pet.
  • Don’t use time-released drug capsules. Because by using capsules your pet may get the entire dose at once instead of being divided or spread out over time. This can be dangerous and less effective for them.
  • Benadryl for adults and puppies is different. So, use it appropriately according to your pet’s age and size.
  • Last but not least, if you’re going to use liquid medication instead of tablets, you must ask your Vet for the appropriate dosage.

In a nutshell, if you are going to change the mode of medication dosage will be changed. For liquid medication, a 2 to 4 mg/kg guideline will not be appropriate.


It can be safely concluded that when it comes to Apoquel Vs Benadryl, consider the severity of the allergic reaction. The age, drug allergies, and past medical history must also be considered.


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